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CUNY Graduate Center wins National Science Foundation award to give graduate students a head start in bio-inspired nanotechnology

From photosynthesis to the collective behavior of ants, natural phenomena inspire both discovery and innovation. Now, thanks to breakthroughs in computing,…

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From photosynthesis to the collective behavior of ants, natural phenomena inspire both discovery and innovation. Now, thanks to breakthroughs in computing, engineering, molecular biology, biochemistry, and complexity science, scientists are finding new ways to mimic and adapt nature, creating nanoscale materials and devices that bring powerful, sustainable solutions that advance health care, renewable energy, and space exploration.

Credit: Shanté Booker

From photosynthesis to the collective behavior of ants, natural phenomena inspire both discovery and innovation. Now, thanks to breakthroughs in computing, engineering, molecular biology, biochemistry, and complexity science, scientists are finding new ways to mimic and adapt nature, creating nanoscale materials and devices that bring powerful, sustainable solutions that advance health care, renewable energy, and space exploration.

With a new $3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Training grant, faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center and its Advanced Science Research Center (CUNY ASRC) are launching Nanoscience Connected to Life to train diverse Ph.D. students for careers that integrate aspects of life sciences with nanoscience. This comprehensive program, which is connected to Understanding the Rules of Life (one of 10 NSF “big ideas”), will provide Graduate Center students who are in Biochemistry, Chemistry, and Physics Ph.D. programs and conducting bio-nanotechnology research with funding, research training, mentorship, and professional-development internships at industry and government labs.

“In combining training in world-class, cross-disciplinary nanoscience research with an equally valuable emphasis on career engagement, this needed program will prepare CUNY’s diverse graduate students to lay the groundwork for rewarding careers in high-demand industries,” said Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “The program’s great promise to drive innovation while expanding the participation of students from traditionally underrepresented groups in CUNY’s Ph.D. programs and diversifying the STEM fields, leverages the unparalleled strengths of the Graduate Center and of CUNY itself. We thank the NSF for its substantial investment.”

“This NSF Research Training program will strengthen the Graduate Center as a powerhouse of interdisciplinary science, particularly nanoscience and its applications,” said Robin L. Garrell, president of the Graduate Center. “Faculty at the Advanced Science Research Center and throughout our STEM doctoral and master’s programs are working across disciplines to find new ways to generate energy, diagnose and treat diseases, and address climate change. By engaging students of all backgrounds in cutting-edge, team-based research, we are preparing the next generation of scientists to lead innovation in academia and industry.” ​

“The nanoscale is the size range where biology’s functionality plays out at its most basic level,” said Professor Rein V. Ulijn, the principal investigator of the NSF grant, the founding director of the Nanoscience Initiative at the CUNY ASRC, and the Einstein Professor of Chemistry at Hunter College. “By bringing together knowledge from various disciplines, we can develop an understanding of the engineering approaches of biological systems. We can then apply this knowledge broadly to create new green technology that rivals the versatility of the structures of the living world. This is an area of much promise and growth, and now is the perfect time to significantly expand our research in it.”

The field of nanotechnology continues to grow and find applications in technologies that impact our everyday lives. Students who are trained through this program will be prepared to lead research and innovation in a variety of fields, including the growing area of green manufacture, where products such as clothing and cosmetics are increasingly bio-derived and fully biodegradable. Nanoscience also merges with the life sciences to enable the development of vaccines, medical devices, and diagnostic testing kits. The lipid nanoparticles used for delivering mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to human cells are one example of these nature-inspired nanoscale solutions.

The Nanoscience Connected to Life training program will expand research in bio-nanotechnology by providing direct funding to 25 Ph.D. students and by involving an additional 125 Biochemistry, Chemistry, and Physics students in its events and opportunities. The trainees will benefit from dissertation research mentoring by faculty from multiple disciplines, helping students gain experience in interdisciplinary and team-based research. Cross-disciplinary teams will collaborate to address urgent societal challenges related to environmental instabilities and health crises. Career development and networking activities are embedded throughout the programming, and are designed to prepare students for mentorship, leadership, and entrepreneurship in industry, startups, academia, government, and nonprofit organizations. An overarching goal is to prepare diverse students — future leaders — by creating a learning community of systems thinkers who can exchange knowledge and communicate across disciplines. 

The training program has a strong focus on diversifying STEM and will leverage its position within CUNY, the nation’s largest and most diverse urban public university system. The program aims to attract diverse students to Graduate Center science Ph.D. programs. Program faculty will work closely with admissions to recruit underrepresented minorities, women, and members of the LGBTQ community from within CUNY and from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“Diversity enhances science,” said Joshua Brumberg, dean for the sciences at the Graduate Center and interim executive director of the CUNY ASRC. “By drawing more diverse students into our Ph.D. programs, we are fulfilling the mission of CUNY to serve the whole people, and we are bringing needed new perspectives and ideas into some of the most exciting areas of science and technology. We all stand to benefit from this inspired initiative.”


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Las Vegas Strip Gets a Brand New Technology

It’s not just Caesars and MGM innovating on the Strip. A number of other companies are trying big idea.

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It's not just Caesars and MGM innovating on the Strip. A number of other companies are trying big idea.

Las Vegas has quietly become a hotbed for innovation. Some of that has been driven by the major casino operators -- Caesars Entertainment (CZR) - Get Caesars Entertainment Inc. Report, MGM Resorts International (MGM) - Get MGM Resorts International Report, Resorts World Las Vegas, and Wynn Resorts (WYNN) - Get Wynn Resorts Limited Report -- trying to outdo each other to win over customers.

Some innovations are ostentatious and hard to miss, like the MSG (MSGE) - Get Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. Class A Report Sphere being built at the Venetian. That first-of-its-kind concert venue looks as if it dropped to Earth from a technologically advanced civilization, and it has raised the bar for performance venues.

Many innovations, however, aren't as obvious. Caesars, for example, uses an artificial intelligence text-based concierge that's surprisingly effective. "Ivy," as it goes by, can answer questions, help with mundane tasks like getting clean towels delivered, or advance your issue to a human where needed.

Innovations big and small are happening up, down, and under the Las Vegas Strip. Elon Musk's Boring Co. has been building a network of tunnels under the city that will eventually use driverless Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc. Report electric vehicles to ferry people all over the city. 

That's a revolutionary idea -- but now a rival has emerged.  

Image source: Daniel Kline/TheStreet

Musk Goes Low, Lyft Goes High?

Musk's Boring Co. has a bold plan for more than 50 stations connecting the Las Vegas Strip to the airport, the Convention Center, Allegiant Stadium, and Fremont Street using driverless Teslas. 

Currently, only a small portion of that network has been built -- a section connecting the two halves of the Las Vegas Convention Center (and one connecting Resorts World Las Vegas to that same location.

For Musk and Boring Co., it's all about taking traffic off the city's busy streets and bringing it underground.

"During typical peak hours, driving from the Las Vegas Convention Center to Mandalay Bay, for example, can take up to 30 minutes. The same trip on Vegas Loop will take approximately 3 minutes," the company says on its website.

If Musk's plan is fully built, it'll effectively give Las Vegas a modern subway, helping alleviate road congestion. It will not, however, stop tourists from using ride-share and taxi cabs.

Now, ride-share company Lyft  (LYFT) - Get Lyft Inc. Report has brought a solution to Sin City that may ultimately help it solve another problem: a shortage of taxi and ride-share drivers. 

Lyft Brings Driverless Cars (Sort of) to Las Vegas

Labor in Las Vegas has been in short supply since the pandemic hit. Some people left the city and others found work outside the service-industry jobs that fuel the Las Vegas economy. At times, that has made the wait for a cab, or a ride-share from Uber (UBER) - Get Uber Technologies Inc. Report and Lyft, longer than usual.

Lyft plans to fix that by partnering with Motional to bring Motional's "Ioniq-5-based robotaxi, an autonomous vehicle designed for fully driverless ride-hail operation, to the Lyft network in Las Vegas," the ride-share company shared in a news release.

The Ioniq 5 is Hyundai's  (HYMTF)  prominent EV. Motional is the Boston joint venture between Hyundai and automotive-technology specialist Aptiv.  (APTV) - Get Aptiv PLC Report

"Launching Motional’s all-electric Ioniq 5 on Lyft’s network in Las Vegas represents tremendous progress in our vision to make an electric, autonomous, and shared future a reality for people everywhere," said  Lyft CEO Logan Green.

It's Self-Driving Lyfts, But...

There is, however, a pretty big catch.

"Each vehicle arrives with not one but two backup drivers standing by to take control of the car should anything go wrong" Casino.org's Corey Levitan reported.

Lyft has promised a truly driverless system at some point in 2023, but current laws and the state of driverless technology make the backups necessary.

Motional and Lyft have quietly been testing driverless vehicles in Las Vegas since 2018. In the news release, Lyft explained how the system works.

"This means riders are able to easily control their ride without assistance from a driver. The enhanced experience includes unlocking the doors through the Lyft app and starting the ride or contacting customer support from the new in-car Lyft AV app, an intuitive in-ride display tailored to autonomous ride-sharing," the company said.

Lyft and Boring Co. are not working together. But if Musk's plan takes vehicles off Las Vegas's streets, the new program makes the experience better for any that remain. 

Ride sharing and taxis will continue to cost significantly more than using Boring Co's subway-like system, so it's easy to see how the two options will work well together.   .

 

  

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Elon Musk’s Las Vegas Strip Plan Has Some Competition

It’s not just Caesars and MGM innovating on the Strip. Elon Musk has been tunneling under Las Vegas to solve a big problem, and now he has a rival.

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It's not just Caesars and MGM innovating on the Strip. Elon Musk has been tunneling under Las Vegas to solve a big problem, and now he has a rival.

Las Vegas has quietly become a hotbed for innovation. Some of that has been driven by the major casino operators -- Caesars Entertainment (CZR) - Get Caesars Entertainment Inc. Report, MGM Resorts International (MGM) - Get MGM Resorts International Report, Resorts World Las Vegas, and Wynn Resorts (WYNN) - Get Wynn Resorts Limited Report -- trying to outdo each other to win over customers.

Some innovations are ostentatious and hard to miss, like the MSG (MSGE) - Get Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. Class A Report Sphere being built at the Venetian. That first-of-its-kind concert venue looks as if it dropped to Earth from a technologically advanced civilization, and it has raised the bar for performance venues.

Many innovations, however, aren't as obvious. Caesars, for example, uses an artificial intelligence text-based concierge that's surprisingly effective. "Ivy," as it goes by, can answer questions, help with mundane tasks like getting clean towels delivered, or advance your issue to a human where needed.

Innovations big and small are happening up, down, and under the Las Vegas Strip. Elon Musk's Boring Co. has been building a network of tunnels under the city that will eventually use driverless Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc. Report electric vehicles to ferry people all over the city. 

That's a revolutionary idea -- but now a rival has emerged.  

Image source: Daniel Kline/TheStreet

Musk Goes Low, Lyft Goes High?

Musk's Boring Co. has a bold plan for more than 50 stations connecting the Las Vegas Strip to the airport, the Convention Center, Allegiant Stadium, and Fremont Street using driverless Teslas. 

Currently, only a small portion of that network has been built -- a section connecting the two halves of the Las Vegas Convention Center (and one connecting Resorts World Las Vegas to that same location.

For Musk and Boring Co., it's all about taking traffic off the city's busy streets and bringing it underground.

"During typical peak hours, driving from the Las Vegas Convention Center to Mandalay Bay, for example, can take up to 30 minutes. The same trip on Vegas Loop will take approximately 3 minutes," the company says on its website.

If Musk's plan is fully built, it'll effectively give Las Vegas a modern subway, helping alleviate road congestion. It will not, however, stop tourists from using ride-share and taxi cabs.

Now, ride-share company Lyft  (LYFT) - Get Lyft Inc. Report has brought a solution to Sin City that may ultimately help it solve another problem: a shortage of taxi and ride-share drivers. 

Lyft Brings Driverless Cars (Sort of) to Las Vegas

Labor in Las Vegas has been in short supply since the pandemic hit. Some people left the city and others found work outside the service-industry jobs that fuel the Las Vegas economy. At times, that has made the wait for a cab, or a ride-share from Uber (UBER) - Get Uber Technologies Inc. Report and Lyft, longer than usual.

Lyft plans to fix that by partnering with Motional to bring Motional's "Ioniq-5-based robotaxi, an autonomous vehicle designed for fully driverless ride-hail operation, to the Lyft network in Las Vegas," the ride-share company shared in a news release.

The Ioniq 5 is Hyundai's  (HYMTF)  prominent EV. Motional is the Boston joint venture between Hyundai and automotive-technology specialist Aptiv.  (APTV) - Get Aptiv PLC Report

"Launching Motional’s all-electric Ioniq 5 on Lyft’s network in Las Vegas represents tremendous progress in our vision to make an electric, autonomous, and shared future a reality for people everywhere," said  Lyft CEO Logan Green.

An Important Caveat

There is, however, a pretty big catch.

"Each vehicle arrives with not one but two backup drivers standing by to take control of the car should anything go wrong" Casino.org's Corey Levitan reported.

Lyft has promised a truly driverless system at some point in 2023, but current laws and the state of driverless technology make the backups necessary.

Motional and Lyft have quietly been testing driverless vehicles in Las Vegas since 2018. In the news release, Lyft explained how the system works.

"This means riders are able to easily control their ride without assistance from a driver. The enhanced experience includes unlocking the doors through the Lyft app and starting the ride or contacting customer support from the new in-car Lyft AV app, an intuitive in-ride display tailored to autonomous ride-sharing," the company said.

Lyft and Boring Co. are not working together. But if Musk's plan takes vehicles off Las Vegas's streets, the new program makes the experience better for any that remain. 

Ride sharing and taxis will continue to cost significantly more than using Boring Co's subway-like system, so it's easy to see how the two options will work well together.   .

 

  

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Exosomes Could Improve Inhaled Therapeutics

Instead of disguising vaccines in synthetic lipid nanoparticles, researchers used exosomes as their drug delivery vehicles to the lung. The exosomes are…

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For respiratory diseases, from asthma to COVID-19, inhaled treatments can quickly deliver a drug to the desired target, the lungs. Global health depends on such treatments. As Kristen Popowski, a PhD candidate in comparative biomedical sciences at the North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, and her colleagues wrote: “Respiratory diseases are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) remaining prevalent in the ongoing pandemic.”

Kristen Popowski [North Carolina State University]
Although lipid nanoparticles offer one delivery vehicle for such treatments, nature creates an obstacle. “The lung has natural defense mechanisms against inhaled particulates, and traditional lipid-nanoparticle vaccines present challenges in cytotoxicity and respiratory clearance,” says Popowski. “A nanoparticle formulation that can withstand these defense mechanisms remains a critical challenge.” So, Popowski and her colleagues explored an alternative approach.

“Instead of disguising vaccines in synthetic lipid nanoparticles, we utilize cell-secreted nanoparticles called exosomes as our drug delivery vehicles to the lung,” Popowski explains. “Our exosomes are secreted from native lung cells and are recognizable by the lung.”

Consequently, she says, “We can minimize pulmonary toxicity and clearance to better deliver and retain vaccines.” In addition, the exosome-based treatments developed by Popowski and her colleagues can be formulated as a dry powder that requires no refrigeration and can have a shelf life of 28 days.

Despite the incentives to take an exosome-based approach to inhaled treatments for respiratory diseases, turning that into a part of bioprocessing requires more research.

“Although commercial manufacturing of exosomes has recently shown extensive improvement, optimization of mRNA loading into exosomes remains a challenge,” Popowski says. “Endogenous mRNA expression through exosome engineering would likely be necessary for large-scale production.”

The post Exosomes Could Improve Inhaled Therapeutics appeared first on GEN - Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

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